How To Make A Barn Quilt

Quilters love their much so that they will show them off anyway they can!  They look great over a couch or the foot of a bed....on a wall and even to decorate the outside of your home.  I'm not talking about hanging a fabric quilt outside...I'm talking about a barn quilt!

A barn quilt is basically a large piece of wood that is painted to look like a large quilt block. We have a long history in our country of hanging barn quilts outside our homes and barns. They were thought to bring good luck and prosperity. Some 200 years ago when there wasn't enough paint to paint an entire barn women would take a pattern of a quilt block that grandma had made and would paint barn quilt to hang on their barns.  It was a way to decorate their farms and also was a source of family pride.

Once paint was readily available and people began painting their entire barns, quilt block kind of disappeared.  In 2000 a woman in Ohio wanted to increase tourism in her state and started a barn quilt tour…much like our local Parade of Homes.  People would tour the farms in the state and view the barn quilts painted to represent the families who owned them. 

Last summer our family toured the east coast and mid-west and I fell in love with these barn quilts.  So much so that I had to come home and make one...and I haven't stopped!  They are super easy to make and are pretty addicting.  I find myself looking for new patterns to paint and ways to use them all.  

The first thing you need to find is a surface to paint on.  Some people paint of solid wood, but I love making my own boards because they look more like the wall of a barn.  So, here are the instructions for making a barn board.

How to make a Barn Board...


Fence boards 6' x 6"
Wood Glue
1" Sheetrock Screws
Eye Goggles
Pencil and Tape Measure

The first thing you need to find is a surface to paint on.  Some people paint of solid wood, but I love making my own boards because they look more like the wall of a barn.  So, here are the instructions for making a barn board.

1.  Decide the size of the barn board you want to make.  

2.  Purchase enough fence boards to make the size you want.
22" x 22"  - 2  Six Foot Boards
33" x 33" - 7 Six Foot Boards
44" x 44" - 9 Six Foot Boards

I purchase my boards at a big box store such as Home Depot or Lowes.  If you do not have a saw at home, they will make the cuts for you there.  Just look for a kind employee and have them cut the boards to the size you need.  

Once they are cut it is good to let them cure a little.  Fence boards typically come with some moisture in them.  So, it's good to lay them flat at room temperature before you go onto the next steps.  Otherwise, you will have gaps in your board surface.  (Some people like the larger gaps...but if you want tight seams, cure your boards!)

3.  Once the boards are cut, lightly sand the edges to smooth off any rough spots and to "age" the boards.

4.  Lay out your boards together, face down.  Make the seams as tight as you want them.  You need to cut two extra lengths to use as your back braces.  These amounts were included in the number of boards you needed to purchase you should have enough ready to cut.

5.  Squirt a bead of wood glue across the back brace and lay down on the back of the boards flush with the top and the bottom edges.  

6. Using the 1" drywall screws, screw through the back brace into the the barn boards to attach it all together.  

7.  Now your board is ready to prep for paint.  If you want to paint on the raw wood...go for it!  I have made a few on natural and stained wood and they look great.  Although, the design is a little fainter on natural wood than on a painted surface.  So what you do depends on the design you want.

If you want your colors to show up bold, use a flat or a semi-gloss paint and coat the top of the barn board.  I like to use a dry brush for this and as little paint as possible repeating as many strokes as I need to get the desired coverage.  It is nice to have some raw wood coming through if you are looking for a more antique look.

How To Paint A Barn Quilt


Base Paint
Long Strait Edge or Ruler
Chip Brush
Foam Brush
Acrylic Paint
Frog Tape
Wood Stain
Two Dry Rags
Paint Thinner
Polyurethane Spray
Rubber Gloves

1.  The first step after you have your board made and prepped is to lay out your pattern.  Almost all quilt blocks are made up of smaller squares like in the Star Spangled Barn Quilt pattern pictured above.  This pattern has four small blocks across and four up and down.  The best way to get perfectly square blocks is to measure the size of your board and divide that measurement by the number of blocks to get how big to make your blocks.

Once you have your grid lines marked on your board, using a pencil and strait edge, draw in the lines of your pattern and in pencil, make a notation of what color goes in each section.  I have to do this for my sanity so I don't make a mistake and have to repaint something.

2.  Now that everything on the board is drawn out, tape off the sections you want to paint first with painters tape.  The absolute best tape for this is Frog Tape.  You can find it at most hardware store and paint sections.  I have tried every tape out there and the only one that sticks down to these uneven surfaces with the least amount of seepage is Frog Tape.  It is worth every cent!

If you are using a bold or dark color you will want to paint two or three coats. You can peel the tape off as soon as you are finished.  It doesn't need to dry completely.  That's one of the other benefits to using Frog Tape.

3.  After your barn quilt is painted and dry, use an eraser to remove any pencil lines that are still showing.  I love to finish off the boards with an antique look. To get a pretty finish, take one part stain to one part of paint thinner.  Wear rubber gloves and dip a soft rag into the mixture.  Wipe it on in a small area and then wipe off with the other dry rag.  Repeat until your board is covered and you have the darkness you like.  This technique deepens the colors of the paint and ages the base color.

4.  If you are going to hang your barn quilt outside, you will want to spray two coats of polyurethane spray.  This will protect the wood and the colors from sun, rain and other elements. If you are going to hang it inside you can skip this step.

So there you have it...this is how you make a barn quilt!  I hope you enjoy making these as much as I have.  Just be warned...they are addicting.  I have one hung over my garage, one on my front porch and one on my back patio.  I also like to use them for serving trays on my kitchen and dinning room tables.  They look great hung on any wall where you are wanting a big bold burst of color with major impact.  The only thing I need now is a big barn!!!  Maybe Santa will bring one this year....

If you have any questions, please shoot me an email and I will be happy to help you.  Have a great day!


  1. Love the barn quilts, too. First saw them in Shipshewana Indiana . . . they have barn and garden quilt tours! A local quilt store here in South Haven, Michigan, where I live, has barn stars displayed - her store is in a new garage addition to the house where she lives . . . which was originally a barn that was moved there years ago! Barns, quilts, stars . . . some of my favorite things!

    1. Oh gosh yes Marsha! I lived in southern Michigan many years ago and return to visit often.....each trip includes a quick drive to "Shipshe"! I have always loved quilting and painting, so the barn quilts there never cease to inspire me!!

  2. This was a great read and even better tutorial! I have been wanting to paint one of these for my mom who is a fabric quilter but the MDO board that many painted quilt makers recommend is hard to find and too expensive. Your solution is awesome and looks fantastic! Thank you!

  3. Thanks for a great tutorial..I can't wait to get started.

  4. Yes,finally a tutorial using Real wood! I've seen every other material used but I wanted a Wood base!. I can do this or I should say my husband can help me do this!! Thanks!! He got to see some when we rode the back roads of KY this spring. He was sold! And...the best part, I actually have a real Barn to put one on! !!!

  5. Great tutorial! But, how do you actually hang it on an outside wall?

  6. This was a very nice tutorial. Not overwhelming. I will try this and maybe I have found just the right way for me to make bar quilts. Thank you!

  7. What color of stain do you use?

  8. How do you hang your barn. Is there special hardware for hanging them?

  9. I too was wondering what color of stain to use? I cannot get mine to have the 'weathered' or antique look!!

  10. I took her barn quilt class in February and she offered 2 stain colors to chose from a gray stain or a brown stain. Hope that helps and you ought to check out her next class in July, it was so fun.



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